I am writing this blog forever changed. Changed in a way that I barely recognise myself from the young girl who had no knowledge of what life and the universe can do to you. Changed to never enjoy the blissful naivety of a smooth pregnancy. Before this change though, we were that smug couple who conceived quickly, and I admit, we were sucked in. Racing ahead to how we would announce it. Names. Prams. All that jazz. (You know, that fairytale of pregnancy you assume you get handed after seeing those two lines?). We floated in that bubble for a while, then went to an early 6 week scan to get some painful twinges checked out. ‘There’s one, and there’s the other one. It’s twins’. Such casual words that were said by the sonographer as she confirmed all looked fine. But words that would change our lives forever. We were having twins. ‘I am Beyoncè’ I declared to my husband, as we stood in the empty lift that took us back to the hospital car park. (I was shitting myself in all honesty, but humour is where I go to when I don’t know what to say.)
Sadly, our bubble was popped from the next scan at 12 weeks, and was pretty much the little shop of pregnancy horrors from there. The sonographer said that the babies were uneven in size and seemed to have uneven amount of fluid around them, so we went into a consultant’s room straight afterwards to have this explained. I can remember even then feeling happy and smug still, chatting to Adam and my mum who had come along what we would have for lunch after and picking up the scan photos from reception. But I quickly learned that when you are asked to enter a consultant room, it is never good news. Diagrams were drawn. Apparently, twin pregnancies weren’t all that great, they were risky, problematic, and not really meant to happen in terms of what strain a woman’s body can take (Darwin designed us to carry one at a time, who knew?). And there were three types of the buggers! We had the ‘medium risk’ type, where each baby had their own sac and fluid, but were sharing a placenta. The ideal is to have a placenta and a sac each, and it was given in rather clinical and unfeeling terms that we would be very unlikely to be bringing home both babies. We continued with bi-weekly scans, where things seemed to be looking better and evening out, until week 17.
It was this scan where things really took a turn into shit’s creek. They couldn’t find a bladder in one of the babies, and the fluid was ‘shrink-wrapped’ around it. These were signs of something I wish I wasn’t now an expert on – Twin to Twin Transfusion Syndrome (TTTS), where one baby takes too much of the nutrients and blood flow from the other which could be fatal for one or both. We were referred to a specialist hospital from there, were we went every week. We managed to get through it though, some weeks were really hairy, some a bit dodgy, then fine, then dodgy again, until we finally graduated out of the risky window into the mid- twenties and were discharged back to our regular hospital. Brace yourselves. This is the rough bit.
The next scan back, at just after 27 weeks, as the consultant was checking the second baby, we heard those words. ‘Louise, I can’t find a heartbeat.’ They were as shocked as we were, but all they could do was simply send us home, advising us to ‘hang on’ for the surviving baby for as long as possible. I began to bleed heavily 10 days later and have contractions. We rushed in, and not long after I had an emergency c-section, where our baby who had passed was taken away, and our surviving baby, Eva, was taken at 28 + 6 gestation to NICU. She stayed there for 9 weeks until we finally brought her home, two days short of Christmas. (Shout out to husband who did a Tesco big shop that afternoon and went on to still cook Christmas dinner….there’s no stopping that man).
Months later, we had a meeting with the consultant after giving consent for a post mortem. The jist was that it was never actually TTS, but that my placenta was essentially pretty crap (not big enough and not flat enough to support the pregnancy). Also, Eva had a big long chord right down the middle, therefore getting all the good stuff, whereas the baby we lost had a very short chord that had formed at the side, and so in hindsight was only ever going to get so far. As shit news goes, I think its one of the only versions I could have found peace with.
I am always conscious of our loss being unusual, or less common. I grieve in a way that may seem unconventional. I do not use the name of the baby we lost, though we named her Georgia. We did not choose to hold, or have as service, and her pictures are still in a box in the hospital. We do not have her name on a Christmas tree decoration, I do not write it in the sand. But I don’t forget. I don’t stop missing her, or missing what could have been. I just want to say to anyone reading this, that you must do it your way. Do what brings comfort, and what makes it hurt a little less. For me, this was sticking to my guns and also throwing myself into Eva. I know that I am so lucky, despite our story, to have walked out of the hospital with a baby. I know not everyone gets that.
In terms of how I managed after that….I talked, and talked, and talked some more. I used a ‘bereavement befriender’ phone service to be matched with someone with a story similar to mine…who is now a friend IRL! I used a counsellor. A lot. I blogged. I Instagram’d. I found my tribe. I put trust and faith that the universe can deal you a good hand, and I went into a second pregnancy refusing to let the anxiety get the better of me. And in May 2020, we were honoured with the presence of Maria, our full term happy healthy baby. Our proof that pregnancy can just happen, be positive. Go how it’s meant to. End how it’s meant to. (Pregnancy after loss was always going to be hard, but I must say it really gave it that edge having it in an unprecedented worldwide pandemic.)
What have I learned from all of this? I have learned that life is not black and white. I used to believe that there is the perfect life before loss, and the tainted life after it. Its just not true. Life is messy and imperfect and there to be grabbed by the balls. I have learned that ‘should’ is a bad word. At the start, I would think, ‘This isn’t how a pregnancy should be’, ‘This isn’t how you should start a family’, ‘This isn’t how I should come into motherhood’, ‘I should have twins.’ It brings nothing but pain (and you’ve had enough of that, my love). I have learned that everyone is grieving. Everyone has lost something or someone. We all carry that, everyday. I now know that pain, grief and trauma does not define you. It is one piece of your huge tapestry. I guess what I’m trying to say, is that whilst I would take away what happened in a second, I can fully appreciate and thrive from its lessons and the way it has made me today. I am a better me for it.
What would I say to someone going through similar? You will be ok. One day you will laugh at the TV. Or get drunk with friends. Or have a kitchen disco when Return of the Mac comes on Alexa and realise, hey I’m still me – she’s in there! You will look forward to things. You will get annoyed about your husband leaving his socks just next to the washing basket. Then you will be happy that you got annoyed. Because it’s so menial, and boring and unimportant. It’s something you thought you would never even register ever again. Because nothing matters anymore after losing a baby, right? Keep going, keep talking, keep getting out of bed. You are so. Not. Done.
Thank you for reading my story. If you want to connect, I’m over on Instagram at @loss_motherhood_etc
If you have suffered a loss of a baby or babies in a multiple pregnancy, reach out to @twinstrust – they are the charity who provided the bereavement service for me and I owe them so much